The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Republican-backed Zika virus funding at just after 3 a.m. Thursday while House Democrats continued to hold a sit-in on the House floor in order to push for a vote on gun control measures.
The 239-171 vote approved $1.1 billion to fight the virus. In Florida, there have been 195 reported cases.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, originally supported the Obama administration’s request for $1.9 billion in funding.
“This will give our nation’s disease fighters the funds they need to confront the deadly Zika virus in Florida and elsewhere,” Buchanan said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said this was a significant improvement than what the House passed last month, just $622 million in funding.
“Everyone, in both parties, should stop playing political games with the Zika virus and get something done,” he said.
The recently passed bill was largely rejected by Democrats because it would cut $543 million in unused funds from the implementation of Obamacare, $107 million from leftover Ebola funds and $100 million in administrative funds from the Health and Human Services Department, according to a USA Today article.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., called the House bill “a disaster.”
Not only does it take $500 million in health care funding away from Puerto Rico, it limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects,” Nelson said in a statement. “This is not a serious solution.”
Buchanan had several times called on the House and Senate to compromise on a decision.
“The $1.1 billion approved by the House today comes none too soon given the dire warnings issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies,” he said.
Rubio said that the rate at which the virus is spreading in Puerto Rico and Latin America is “scary” and that people need to educate themselves about the virus to understand the urgency.
Buchanan noted a June 20 report from JAMA Pediatrics, which said that more than 1 million pregnancies along the Gulf Coast could be at risk from the Zika virus.
“It would be a tragedy if the funding got caught up in partisan politics again,” he said.